Doctoral education

Beginning your doctoral studies

This is the first page of the 3-page Doctoral student study guide. Here you will find information which is especially useful at the beginning of your studies: what to do after receiving your study place, what the curriculum of your doctoral programme means, how a doctoral personal study plan is done, and how to finance your studies etc. You can find links to the other two pages of the study guide at the bottom of this page.

Doctoral student study guide is maintained by the Doctoral education services (Learning services). We use the title doctoral student in this guide. The title doctoral researcher is used in employment matters. This guide replaces the page Being a doctoral student at Aalto.

Loading table of contents

After admission to doctoral studies

Welcome to our doctoral community! All new doctoral students take part in the Aalto Doctoral Orientation Days at the start of the studies. Make sure to handle all the practicalities too - we are here to help you!

All doctoral students have a student status at Aalto, but many of you also have a work contract. Do note that application to doctoral programme and study right is a different process from the recruitment to a doctoral researcher's paid work contract. If you are unsure of your status, please contact the Doctoral education services.

Doctoral personal study plan (DPSP)

The doctoral personal study plan (DPSP) is a tool for planning and scheduling your activities and resourses in order to complete your studies and reseach, and to graduate towards the career you aim at. It is also a tool for discussing your plans with your supervising professor and for agreeing about the supervision and advising that you need.

DPSP consists of the following documents:

  1. Credit plan (Sisu)
  2. Research plan
  3. Supervision plan
  4. Financing plan
  5. Career plan

Update your DPSP when necessary. We recommend you to go through your plan with your supervising professor at least once a year.

You will need an official confirmation for your DSPS at least twice during your studies: at the beginning and before pre-examination. In between, you should confirm your DPSP e.g. if:

  • Your supervising professor, advisor(s), research topic or research field changes
  • Your funding situation changes significantly
  • You are taking courses in other universities.

If you were requested to submit some of the DPSP documents as part of your study right application, you may use the same documents as a basis for your DPSP to be confirmed at the start of your studies.

Individual studies (custom course credit)

In addition to courses, doctoral studies often comprise of credits completed individually, e.g. through conference presentations, summer/winter schools, publications/productions (not included in your thesis), literature reviews on reading packages etc. Such custom course credits are always approved and granted by your supervising professor.


Credit transfer: inclusion of studies from other universities

You can include studies from other universities in your degree, if you have agreed about it with your supervising professor in your Sisu credit plan. After completing the course, apply for inclusion of the course in Sisu. Note that you need a transcript of records from the university in which you completed the course.

Credit transfer is only possible if you have received study credits from another university, displayed on a transcript. If you have not received official credits (often in the case of summer schools or seminars), include the studies as individual studies, see more at Doctoral personal study plan (DPSP), under Sisu credit plan - individual studies (custom course credit).

Doctoral curriculum

At Aalto University, curriculum is planned and confirmed for two academic years. Each doctoral programme has it's own curriculum, which lists the compulsory and optional courses that are offered and/or accepted to be included in the degree, i.e. the degree requirements.

The credit plan in Sisu has been built according to the curriculum. The plan automatically offers you the list of courses offered by your own doctoral programme (or at least the compulsory courses, if your programme requires any).

Language and communication studies

Language and communication courses at Aalto University

Student guide illustration, language and communications studies

FinDocNet online courses (external link)

Finnish Doctoral Training Network offers Moodle-based online courses for doctoral students in Finnish universities.

The text "Finnish Doctoral Training Network" on a website

Pedagogical training: main page

Do you want to develop yourself as a teacher? Start Aalto pedagogical training with A! Peda Intro and continue with other core courses, or check the available elective courses.

People talking and working in the café in Harald Herlin Learning Center, white lamps hanging in front.

Doctoral thesis: resources and requirements

book/Photo by Anastasia Zhenina on Unsplash

Doctoral thesis at Aalto University

Resources and guidelines for doctoral students and information on doctoral theses at Aalto University.

Doctoral education

Funding your doctoral studies

Most Aalto doctoral students combine different funding sources during their studies and applying for funding is a central skill for a researcher. The most common ways to fund doctoral studies are

  • work contract(s) as an employed doctoral researcher in a research project, research group or department, see open positions (availability depends on the School)
  • individual grant(s) or scholarship(s) from foundations or funding agencies

Some Aalto schools also offer funded doctoral researcher positions (duration varies). Sometimes doctoral students are employed in a research institute or in an other job where they can contribute the majority of their working hours towards their doctoral thesis. Students permanently living in Finland might also be entitled to student financial aid. The eligibility criteria are available on the webpage of Kela.

Different type of funding agencies and sources for funding

  • List of national funding calls at (previously called Aurora database)
  • International foundations providing funding for doctoral studies
  • International or national doctoral programmes funded by EU or Finnish government
  • Grants given by other governments for their citizens, such as CSC in China
  • Grants given by your prior home university to pursue for doctoral degree at abroad
  • National and international research projects (Business Finland - previously Tekes, Academy of Finland, EU) lead by a professor at Aalto
  • Finland Fellowship -  funding opportunity for new doctoral students in 2022-2024. Applicants for Finland Fellowships must be citizens of nation in Africa, Central America or South America. See How to apply for doctoral studies? ( for more information.

Also see a list of grants and scholarships administered by Aalto University and note Incentive scholarships for doctoral students (awarding achievement).

National funding calls are also advertised at Grant bulletin board (

Research costs as deductible expenses

Certain costs related to doing doctoral studies and completing the degree can be reported as deductible expenses. The costs can be for example language check services, thesis printing, and book orders. For more information, please contact your tax office at Tax office's instructions are available on their website only in Finnish (


School-specific funding information

Students - Travel grant, travel arrangements and reimbursing other expenses

Aalto Travel Service team helps students with the arrangements of the travel related to the studies. Student travel expenses can be covered by a travel grant. The student applies for the grant personally, before each trip. The application is ongoing for the time being.

Association of Finnish Foundations (external link)

The Association of Finnish Foundations' website offers useful information for grant applicants.

Säätiöt ja rahastot logo

Full-time and part-time studies

All doctoral students are defined as either full-time or part-time students. Doctoral students may not change their official mode of study by themselves, but it can be changed by application if necessary. Please apply for change in case the status changes for minimum 6 months (e.g. funding).

Full-time doctoral studies (4 years)

The doctoral personal study plan (DPSP) of the student reflects that they plan to complete their degree within four years of the start of their doctoral studies. Typically full-time students have a salaried doctoral researcher position at Aalto University, receive individual funding for doctoral studies or work full-time towards their doctoral thesis at a research institute or private company (at least 80% of work hours dedicated to doctoral studies).

CHEM: Full-time students are required to have funding allocated for the doctoral studies for at least the first 12 months. Full-time students working outside of Aalto University must provide a document of their employers' approval for full-time doctoral studies (min. 80%).

ELEC & SCI: Full-time students are required to have funding allocated for the doctoral studies for at least the first 6 months (e.g. project funding, a personal grant or funding from an employer). Full-time students working outside of Aalto University must provide a document of their employers' approval for full-time doctoral studies (min. 80%).

Part-time doctoral studies (4-8 years)

The doctoral personal study plan (DPSP) of the student reflects that they plan to complete their degree within four to eight years of the start of their doctoral studies. Typically they have not secured (long-term) funding yet and are not employed by the University as salaried doctoral researchers.

Changing your status (mode of study)

Normally it is recommended to change your status if your mode of study changes for at least 6 months or more. First discuss the change with your supervising professor and then submit the application form (Change of supervising professor, thesis advisor, research field or mode of study) to the Doctoral education services of your doctoral programme.

Doctoral student forms (

Language of doctoral thesis and degree

The language of instruction at Aalto doctoral programmes is, in principle, English but the doctoral thesis can also be completed in Finnish or in Swedish (in the field of business only in English or in Finnish).

Normally, the language of your degree is the language in which you write your thesis (English, Finnish or Swedish).

If your degree language is English, you will receive two original copies of your degree certificate: one in English and one in Finnish/Swedish. If your degree language is Finnish/Swedish, you will receive one original copy of the degree certificate in Finnish/Swedish and an official translation in English.

Changing the language of the degree and thesis

You can apply to change the language of your doctoral thesis and the degree on reasonable grounds. The change of language requires updating your doctoral personal study plan and getting the approval of your supervising professor.

Submit the free format application with shortly explained grounds for the change in writing to your doctoral programme, with your updated doctoral personal study plan, and confirmation by email from your supervising professor.

International joint supervision of doctoral studies

Aalto encourages doctoral degrees which are jointly supervised with international partner. These agreements are referred as Cotutelle Agreements. Arrangements for joint supervision, or ‘cotutelle agreements’ are made regarding the studies and supervision of a single doctoral candidate. Such students are awarded degrees and the associated certificates from both universities.

Aalto University aims at high quality of international standards in research and education. International cooperation is an integral part of the doctoral education of Aalto University, and one method for such cooperation is arrangements for the joint supervision of doctoral degrees. A student may earn a degree under a joint supervision arrangement between two universities provided that joint supervision is based on genuine scientific cooperation, brings added value to the doctoral thesis and enhances the quality of the research.

Cotutelle agreements should be made at the beginning of the studies but it requires a study right at an Aalto doctoral programme before any agreement can be made.

Doctoral education services


Doctoral education services

Doctoral education services support doctoral students, supervising professors, thesis advisors and doctoral programme directors in matters related to doctoral studies. Doctoral education services belong to Learning Services.

Doctoral education
  • Published:
  • Updated:
URL copied!